Archive | July 2013

Dairy Free Rice Pudding

Rice is naturally gluten free. This is great for me since rice is a staple in my house. And this simple recipe only has 5 ingredients and works with any kind of leftover cooked rice you have. I used brown rice in mine, but you can easily use leftover Chinese takeout rice, Uncle Ben’s rice, Basmati rice, etc. For the milk aspect I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk, but you can use soy milk,vanilla soy milk, original almond milk, basically whatever you prefer and whatever meets your allergy/sensitivity needs. The only downside to this recipe is that it took about an hour for the rice to absorb the milk to the right consistency. It was so yummy and I’m excited to make it again! Enjoy!

Ingredients
2 cups cooked leftover rice
3 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
1. Put all ingredients into a sauce pan over medium high heat. Stir occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom. Bring rice mixture to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir rice to keep a skin from forming at the top of your pudding. Keep checking back and cook until desired consistency, 50-60 minutes. Serve warm or chilled.

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Insanity Core Cardio and Balance Day 34

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I know I haven’t been posting recently about Insanity, but I’ve been doing it faithfully every morning 5 days a week (I know the program is a 6 day a week program, but I need some time off to recoup).  I currently finished day 34 of the Insanity program which concludes my Recovery Week with Core Cardio and Balance.  Unlike month 1 where your workouts alternate between a number of options, this week I had to complete the same video every day for 6 days.  I am going to go ahead and put it out there, this was probably my least favorite video out of all the ones I have completed so far.  Even though it is roughly a 37-minute workout, I am so bored in the beginning.  I don’t start enjoying the video until the very end when we get into the super tough stuff like the hip-flexor burners and the shoulder burners.  I didn’t feel like I was getting as good of a workout in this video like I did in the others, but on the other hand I was probably working in my fat burning zone (which is difficult for me to do).  Knowing this bit of information kept me going through the entire week.  

Here is a mini breakdown of the video:

Warm Up: Each move is for 1-minute

  • Switch Heel Kicks –  Jump rope while alternating your heels outwards, landing with soft knees
  • Mummy Kicks 
  • Football Shuffle – shuffling side to side and clapping at the end
  • Log Jumps – sprinting for 8 counts and jumping over an imaginary log
  • 8 High Knees / 8 Power Jacks 
  • 8 Fast Feet / 8 Hooks – sprinting for 8 counts and then using your core to throw eight alternating hooks

Stretching: Shaun T is really good at making sure you get a good stretch in.  Don’t skimp on your stretch and don’t forget to take the water break afterwards.  You need it even if you think you don’t!

Core Cardio: Again each move is done for 1-minute.  Keep your core tight and focus on that through the entire workout

  • Moving Ski Hops – Keep your feet together and hop 4 times to the left and 4 times to the right. Make sure you knees are together, core is engaged,  and you are using your arms.
  • Hit the Floor – We’ve done this before in other Insanity workouts.
  • Level 1 drills – drop down, jump into plank, 4 push ups, 8 floor sprints/mountain climbers (whatever you want to call them), just remember to keep your butt down.
  • Heisman – Shaun T does this is EVERY warm up it seems like, you should be very familiar with this.
  • 8 Switch Kicks/8 Hop Squats – Both of these exercises are from previous Insanity workouts but now put together in a combo move.  Keep your core tight and try to lift your legs as high as possible for your switch kicks and in your hop squats, butt is down and legs are wide.
  • High Jumps – try to jump as high as you can, feet together, squeezing your thighs together, and reaching as high as you can go.  It’s not so much about quantity as it is about quality in this exercise.
  • Wide Plank Walks – Walk your plank 4 steps to the right and 4 to the left.
  • 8 Elbows/4 Suicide Drills – Throw 8 alternating elbow punches followed by 4 suicide drills.  We’ve done suicide drills in other Insanity workouts.

Balance: Again focus on the core!  Each exercise is for a full minute.

  • 4 & 4 hops – Very easy exercise and effective exercise. All you are doing is hopping 4 times on your left leg, then alternating 4 times on your right leg for the allotted time period.
  • Jab Switch Jump Squats – Throw 8 alternating jabs while sitting in a low squat.  After your 8th jab while still in your squat position jump up and do a complete 180 degree turn in the air. Land and repeat. 
  • Hip Flexor Burners – This exercise is slightly different in that you hold each exercise for 30 seconds each without breaks!  First start with a simple knee lift, contracting your core as you lift your knee to hip height.  Arms are bent, elbows in to help keep your balance and keep things centered. Then after 30 seconds keep you knee lifted at hip height and begin small pulses lifting your knee up and down.  Finally after another 30 seconds you’re going to take the same leg, keeping it lifted, and extend your leg out (foot flexed) and back in for 30 seconds.  You may need to hold onto something to keep your balance at this point.  Once 30 seconds is finished, repeat the entire sequence on the other leg.
  • Oblique Knee Lifts –  Using your right arm and your right leg out to the side. Bring your elbow to your knee (or as close as you can get it) for 30 seconds. Repeat with left arm and leg.
  • Shoulder Burners (My favorite part!) – Get yourself into a plie squat (or regular squat if you aren’t flexible), take your arms straight out to the side (parallel to the floor) and pulse your arms for 30 seconds.  After that immediately begin bringing your straight arms front and back out to the sides contracting your core as you bring your arms forward for 30 seconds.  After that bring your arms up above your head and touch your fingertips and bring your arms back down (parallel to the floor) for 30 seconds.  Immediately go into back arm circles for 30 seconds, keeping your core tight, staying in your plie squat, and arms straight.  Finally move into forward arms circles for the last 30 seconds.

Cool Down: Stretch – don’t skip this part!

The funniest thing I found about the stretching part is that as you are stretching out your shoulders, Shaun T says don’t put your head back like him because it’s bad for you but if you are watching the video, over half of the people are doing it too.  I found that quite amusing.  I’m glad that I stuck to it and finished this week, but I’m so looking forward to what Month 2 has in store!  Stay tuned!

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I know, I know – gluten free and dairy free? How good could these cookies really be? Trust me, they are good and so much better than the store bought junk you can buy at the store. I tested them out on some unsuspecting kids at church. Kids are brutally honest, so if the cookies sucked they would tell me. Turns out they were a huge success and I left without a single cookie to take home. The key is to under bake them so the cookies stay soft otherwise they turn into crispy cookies. Enjoy!
Ingredients
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup Earth Fare Coconut Spread
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs (or 2 tablespoons flaxseed soaked in 6 tablespoons water for vegan)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups Bob’s Redmill Gluten Free Oat Flour
1 10-oz package Enjoy Life Dairy free chocolate chips

Directions
1. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening and coconut spread with an electric mixer on medium high for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, granulated sugar, and baking soda. Beat until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs (or flaxseed mixture) and vanilla until well combined. Beat in as much of the oat flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in chocolate chips.
2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet (without the butter they tend to stick). Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes depending on your oven until edges are light brown (remember to slightly undercook them). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
3. Enjoy with a cold glass of vanilla almond milk!

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Summer Treats

I’m not big on ice cream until summer hits. There is something about 90 degree heat and 60% humidity that sends the ice cream craving my way. Being new to the dairy-free and gluten-free world, I wasn’t sure of my options other than your obvious snow cone, Italian Ice, and frozen fruit bar desserts. Well those are fine and dandy but they really don’t hit the spot when you are craving ice cream. I even went to a frozen yogurt shop and had their sorbet. It still didn’t cut it. Luckily my local Kroger has an organic/food allergy aisle, so I decided to see what they had to offer.

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My first major find were these almond dream bars. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan friendly. I wasn’t sure at first because how can chocolate be vegan, but I decided to have an open mind. I’m so glad that I did. These are delicious! The chocolate coating tastes like normal chocolate and the ice cream is rich and velvety and so smooth. You really feel like you are eating a real ice cream bar made from milk. The only downside is that they cost roughly $5.00 a box and you only get 3 bars.

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My next find was this So Delicious Coconut Milk ice cream. I’m not a big fan of coconut but I am a sucker for all things mango. This definitely has the texture of ice cream with a tropical twist. You definitely can taste the mango but there is a tiny hint of coconut in the background. The coconut isn’t overpowering the flavor of the ice cream which I was worried about. With 240 calories per serving (1/2 cup), you don’t want to overindulge which can be easy to do. You’ll want to scoop it out into a dish otherwise you’ll end up eating it all in 3 days like I did. Downside? It costs $6.14 for a pint… Yowza!

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I had high hopes for this flavor of So Delicious. I love green tea ice cream and there is no better way to complete a sushi dinner than with a scoop of green tea ice cream (unless you have some mochi laying around). I opened the container and put a huge spoonful in my mouth… What did I taste? Coconut with a hint of green tea. Unfortunately for this flavor, the green tea isn’t strong enough to stand on its own like the mango so the coconut milk takes center stage instead of the green tea. The texture is still creamy and smooth but the flavor is just all wrong. I guess that’s why it was on closeout for $3.14.

Super Simple Grilled Dinner for 2

Gluten-Free – check. Dairy-Free – check. Something other than salad – check. Perfect!

The other day my husband and I were taking a cruise around Indiana and came to Wilson’s Market in Cicero. Unlike most farmer’s markets that are only open on the weekends for just a short window of time, Wilson’s is open 7 days a week during harvest season. Never having been there before, I begged my husband to let me take a look around. Of course the first thing I smell when I walk in is the homemade baked goods and fudge (neither of which I can eat). But I stayed a perused the shelves of locally made Amish cheese (which I can’t eat either), locally made kettle corn, candy, dried fruit, frozen pies, frozen meats, and produce. I am a sucker for local produce as I’m sure much of you are as well. I picked up 2 decent-sized potatoes and a large yellow squash and one large zucchini and started to plan out my meal from there.

On Sunday I headed to my local grocery store, Kroger, and looked at the meat counter. Raw jumbo shrimp were only $6.99 a pound so I went ahead and got a pound of those and I found two butterflied pork chops for $4.72 and decided to throw those into my cart as well. I found some disposable grill baskets on sale and decided those would be great to grill the veggies in. At a $1.00 a piece, it seemed like a good investment. Again, easy clean up… Since so many marinades have gluten in them (who knew?!), I opted for a dry rub/seasoning instead. After looking at countless options in the spice aisle, I settled on Lawthorn’s All-Purpose seasoning. I doubled checked the ingredients to make sure it was gluten-free (you never can be too sure), and tossed it into the cart and headed home (after paying of course).

Next came the preparation part which was super simple. I peeled the potatoes, although when I make this next time I will leave the skin on, and boiled them until almost soft. I drained them and set them aside to cool. While the potatoes were boiling, I washed and sliced the squash and zucchini into circles about 1/4 inch think since I’d be cooking them on the grill. I tossed them in olive oil and generously sprinkled some Lawthorn’s all-purpose seasoning on it and set it aside. Next came the meat. On a lined tray (I’m a sucker for easy clean-up), I sprinkled each pork chop with some cracked pepper, drizzled some chili infused olive oil and rubbed it in, followed by some Lawthorn’s all-purpose seasoning. I did this to both sides and set it aside. After soaking some wooden skewers in water for a few hours, I peeled the shrimp but left the tails on (for decorative purposes) and skewered the shrimp. I put about 9 shrimp on each skewer. It made 4 skewers exactly. Then I drizzled some olive oil on each sides of the skewers and sprinkles the shrimp with the Lawthorn’s all-purpse seasoning (hey it did say All-Purpose). Once the potatoes were cool enough to handle, I quartered them and then cut any bigger pieces down, you could get anywhere from 8 to 16 steak fries depending on how large you cut them. I also drizzled these with olive oil and sprinkled them with Morton’s low-sodium salt.

Next I headed outside to heat up my grill on medium heat. I always spray the grill with non-stick cooking spray to avoiding sticking because that just ruins everything. I put the pork chops on first as they would cook the longest. After about 4 minutes, I put the potatoes on the grill. The olive oil allows the potatoes to get that crispy texture (without the frying part) but since they are already cooked, they will be soft on the inside. Then the zucchini and squash went on after another 2-3 minutes. The pork-chops ended up taking about 10 minutes to cook total so I took those off and covered them with foil to allow them to rest for a few minutes and let the juices soak back up into the meat. Last thing was to put the shrimp on the grill as they take just a few minutes to cook. Once they turn from that bluish color to orangish-red they are good to go, about 3-4 minutes.

Notice the use of the grill baskets, perfect for cooking veggies that might might fall into the grill otherwise.

Notice the use of the grill baskets, perfect for cooking veggies that might might fall into the grill otherwise.

Last thing you do is just serve it up from the grill to your plate. If you cut the pork chops in half, you can easily serve this dinner to a family of 4 as each person gets 1/2 pork chop and 1 skewer of shrimp (roughly 9 pieces), 4 steak fries, and some veggies. This is a perfectly healthy gluten-free, dairy-free dinner. And if that wasn’t perfect enough the entire dinner (including the disposable baskets and Lawthorn’s seasoning) cost $23.70 which comes to roughly $6 a serving (rounding up) for a family of 4. You can’t get that kind of meal at that price at any restaurant!

My husband's lunch for the next day! Yum Yum!

My husband’s lunch for the next day! Yum Yum!

Ingredients
1 pound raw jumbo shrimp, peeled & deveined
2 butterflied pork chops
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 russet potatoes, boiled & cut into wedges
Olive Oil
Pepper
Lawthorn’s All-Purpse Seasoning

My New Healthy

I’ve always had a sensitive system but I never really knew what was causing my problems.  You see, I was blessed to grow up in a household with not 1 but 2 fabulous cooks.  My mom, who is from Thailand, made all sorts of wonderful exotic Thai dishes (that I didn’t appreciate at the time) and she is a wonderful baker.  She makes the best homemade apple pie and Christmas cookies I’ve ever tasted.  My dad is all about gourmet.  I grew up watching The Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child on TV with my dad.  He owned countless cookbooks written by both of them and I was lucky enough to taste test all of his creations.  Thanksgiving was always a 2-3 day production with a theme (think First Thanksgiving, New England, and even southwestern).  My dad would always have the caloric breakdown of the meal and I always jokingly said, “If you want me to eat your dinner, you won’t show me how many calories are in this.”  Looking back on it, I was also lucky because none of our meals came from boxes.  My parents cooked with real butter, lard (yes, sticks of lard can be found in my parents’ refrigerator), buttermilk, olive oil, etc.  Even our pasta was made from scratch.  Nothing with preservatives were made in our house.  I had it made.

But one thing always plagued me, especially around festive holiday meals which tended to be on the rich and decadent side, I’d be sick immediately after dinner and a couple of times for the rest of the night (yes I know, TMI).  I couldn’t figure it out but I just went with it because the food was just too good to turn down.  (Yes, I would like a piece of apple pie a la mode with homemade whipped cream, pumpkin pie, AND pecan pie.)

As I got older into my college years, I noticed after eating certain foods I would have the worst stomach cramps (goodbye Velveeta shells & cheese, pizza, & DP Dough).  This then branched out to any kind of “fake” cheese or cheese that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and eventually into deep-fried foods.  You are probably thinking that I shouldn’t be eating those foods to begin with, but come on now deep-fried twinkies?  Hello – pure bliss!

Even though I knew these things upset my stomach, I couldn’t stop eating them.  They tasted so good and besides it wasn’t like I was eating like this every day.  So I figured a little splurge here and there or mainly on the weekends wouldn’t hurt anything.

Fast forward to the last two years.  My symptoms had become increasingly worse.  I was not only suffering from upset stomachs but my whole GI system was turned upside down.  (I’ll spare your the details but let’s just say it wasn’t/isn’t pretty.)   I had begun taking a dietary supplement as an easy breakfast on the go and a “nutritious” way to get extra protein into my diet.  Plus I thought that I was being healthy and it would help alleviate my symptoms.  I was drinking 2-3 of these shakes a day plus all of the add-ons like energy drinks and protein cookies.  But not only was I having GI issues, now I was moody, depressed, and fatigued.  Even my best friend said I wasn’t myself.  I blamed it on stress… well, stress had a little to do with it but it wasn’t the main culprit.  After about 6 months of feeling like total crap, I finally broke down to see a doctor.  I thought maybe I had hormonal issues or even a thyroid issue.  I came to find out that my hormone and thyroid levels were completely normal.  In fact all of my tests came back really healthy except for my liver enzymes.  My liver enzymes were through the roof!  So much so, that the doctor actually asked me if I drank alcohol.  I told him rarely (I prefer to eat my calories).  He explained to me that they usually see those types of levels in alcoholics.  WOAH!

I immediately got off all supplements that day and just started eating like normal again.  I agreed to have my labs done again in 4 months to see if my liver enzymes would return to normal after getting off all of the supplements.  While my moodiness and fatigue subsided, all of my GI issues remained.  I was stumped.  I had no idea what to do, where to go, or who to turn to.  It was really frustrating because I worked out 5-6 days a week, I tried to eat relatively healthy, and I take good care of myself.  Why was I having this problem?  Would I have to live with these embarrassing issues the rest of my life?

That brings us to present day.  I met with an AMAZING internist who really took the time to listen to me and really think through all of the possibilities.  I had my labs redone to make sure everything was still okay and if there were any changes in my liver enzymes.  He also ran a food allergy panel.   At my follow-up appointment with my doctor, he informed me that my labs were refrigerator worthy.  He said that I’m in optimal health and that they don’t see labs that good in most patients.  The best part?  My liver enzymes were back to normal, which tells me that those supplements were causing my liver to malfunction.  (This just reiterates me thought that anything you need for your body should come from nature.)  But my doctor also pointed out to me that I was lactose intolerant and had a gluten sensitivity.  Because my body is small and as sensitive as it is to everything, just a tiny amount of gluten and lactose can set my GI system off kilter.  It took me a minute to digest this (no pun intended) but realized that this would be my new normal.

I’m not on some new diet fad.  I’m not trying to lose weight.  I’m just trying to be the healthiest me possible and if that means goodbye dairy and goodbye pasta, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pancakes, bread, rolls, crackers, BBQ sauce, gravy, taco seasoning etc. – then so be it.  I’ll be updating my blog with little things that I find along the way that are gluten-free and dairy-free and taste good for any of you out there who are also suffering from the same types of issues.

I’m super thankful to have a supportive husband, family, and a group of friends who understand and try to make my adjustment as easy and non-depriving as possible.

Fishers Freedom Festival 5K

The last weekend in June is typically one of my favorite weekends in June because of the Fishers Freedom Festival.  I LOVE festivals.  I love the food, the vendors, and just meandering around with nothing to do.  Last year, my husband and I participated in the 5K that kicks off the festival.  It was fun and low-key.

Fast forward to June 2013.  I had thought about running in the Freedom Festival 5K but then thought against it since I was running in the Hoosier Park 8K the week before and the Carmel Freedom 4.5 run the week after on the 4th of July.  I figured I should give myself a week off to rest in between races.

My neighbor across the street has recently begun to start working out again and has been running around the neighborhood.  He casually mentioned to my husband and I that he was interested in running a local 5K but his two boys don’t want to run with him because he’s too slow.  Being the good-natured folks that we are, my husband and I offered to run the Freedom Festival 5K with him since it was practically in our backyard and it’s a smaller race.  He seemed excited and agreed.  So that night I signed us up for the race.

A week goes by and I ask my neighbor, “Hey, we signed up for the race.  Have you?”

His reply, “Nah, not yet.  But I will.”  Okay…

I see him walking his dog later in the week. “Hey, have you signed up for the race yet?”

“Not yet.  I need to get new running shoes.  Then I will sign up.”

I’m starting to have a bad feeling about this.  And so the conversation goes on, week after week, of me asking him if he has signed up yet and he will get to it later.

We are now 3 days from the race.  “Hey, the race is on Saturday.  Have you signed up for the race?”

“Oh man, those new shoes really messed up my knee and it’s all swollen now.  I can’t run.”

I told him to rest up and that I would find him a new race soon.  But that still meant I had to get up and run on Saturday anyway, after all, I did pay $12 to run in this thing.

Saturday morning arrives, my alarm goes off at 6:30AM (later than most of my races since it is so close), and I immediately want to throw my phone out of the window.  After getting up at 5AM Monday-Friday, the last thing I want to do is get up at 6:30AM and run.  But I do because I paid for it and I’m not about to throw $12 away.  It’s a humid 71 degrees outside, weird for this time of year, and I’m not sure what to wear.  I settle on capris and a tank and make my way towards the starting line.

As we were walking to the race, I kept telling myself that I was just going to run this for fun.  It was going to be low-key. I wasn’t trying to place in my division.  I just was going to run and have fun.  Then we started to line up and all of these people were in front of me.  I started feeling anxious.  I looked at the hoards of strollers that were ahead of me.  I couldn’t control the feeling that was creeping up on me, that I had to get around them, but it was too late to make my way to the front.

3, 2, 1… and we’re off.  I immediately took off, weaving in, out, and around people.  I was up on the sidewalk passing families and strollers.  My only goal was to get out of this crowd.  My husband was doing the same thing and we eventually met back up about half a mile into the race.  We know this course well because we run it all the time.  After about 1.5 miles, we  finally broke away from the main pack and found our steady groove.  Well – more like my husband’s steady groove.  I was huffing and puffing trying to maintain a 7 minute 49 second pace and he looked like he was jogging.

We head up the hill and my husband informed me that once we round the corner, he’s going to take off for the last 1/4 mile.  I said, “Go right ahead.  I’ll be back here.”  So when the time came, off he went and there I was still struggling not to die.  Sometimes he really frustrates me because he never trains and he can still whoop my butt in any race we run in.  It really isn’t fair.

I rounded the corner, put my head down, and headed to the finish line.  With an official time of 25 minutes and 10 seconds and an average pace of 8 minutes and 6 seconds, I guess I’ll take it.

Fishers Freedom Festival 5K Official Time - 25:10 Average Pace - 8:06 Division Place - 6/34 Overall Place - 234th

Fishers Freedom Festival 5K
Official Time – 25:10
Average Pace – 8:06
Division Place – 6/34
Overall Place – 234th